Sheriff: Athens woman last seen in store before being found dead in NE Georgia

Credit: Habersham County Sheriff’s Office

Credit: Habersham County Sheriff’s Office

She purchased items at Family Dollar in Clayton

The day before a Clarke County woman was found dead in northeast Georgia earlier this month, she was seen buying several items at a store in Clayton, officials said Monday.

Deborrah “Debbie” Collier’s death has made national headlines since her daughter received an unnerving message indicating someone would not let her go, but authorities are still trying to figure out what actually happened to the 59-year-old.

She was reported missing Sept. 10 after the alarming message was sent through a mobile payment application, according to an incident report. Her body was found the following day down an embankment in some woods in Habersham County, according to the sheriff’s office.

Explore‘They are not going to let me go’: Athens woman found dead in NE Georgia

Investigators with the sheriff’s office said they now believe Collier died between 3:09 p.m. on Sept. 10 and 12:44 p.m. on Sept 11 based on surveillance footage of the victim at a Family Dollar store in Rabun County.

Collier entered the store shortly before 3 p.m. and remained there until 3:09, according to the footage. Authorities were also able to obtain a copy of the store receipt showing that Collier purchased a rain poncho, a refillable torch lighter, a two-roll pack of paper towels, an outdoor tarp and a reusable tote bag.

“In the video, the victim appears to be calm and not in fear of anything,” the sheriff’s office said, adding that Collier was alone in her SUV at the time she visited the store.

About three hours after Collier visited the store, Clarke County police met with the woman’s husband at their Athens home, where he told an officer he had not seen his wife since the night before, the incident report states. When Steve Collier left for work that morning, his wife’s car was still in the driveway and he assumed she had been home, he told the officer.

The woman’s daughter, Amanda Bearden, told police that at about 3:15 p.m. that day, Collier sent her $2,385 through Venmo with the message, “They are not going to let me go love you there is a key to the house in the blue flower pot by the door,” according to the report.

Bearden told officers the message worried her, so she tried calling her mother, but no one picked up. Last week, the sheriff’s office said there was “no evidence to suggest or support that this incident was related to a kidnapping or that this was a suicide.”

According to Bearden, Collier had only her driver’s license and a debit card with her. She also told officers her mother had left the house in a rented black Chrysler Pacifica due to her car being damaged from a wreck.

About 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, Habersham dispatch was contacted by a Sirius XM Service representative, who received an alert that the vehicle of a missing person out of Clarke County was in the area of Ga. 15 and Victory Home Lane, according to the sheriff’s office.

The vehicle was found directly off Ga. 15 northbound on a pull-off that led into an old logging road, the incident report states. The area is about 13 miles from Clayton.

At the location, the body of a partially nude and burned woman was found down the embankment, near a red tote bag and a partially burned blue tarp, the sheriff’s office said.

“The female was laying on the ground, her feet facing downhill, her head up. She had no top on, her skin appeared black, and bright red in places as if she was burnt,” the incident report states. “A couple of feet up the hill was a hole underneath a root from a downed tree where it appeared as if a fire has been burned in the location very recently.”

No information has been released about Collier’s cause of death, and no arrests have been made.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Investigator Cale Garrison at 706-839-0559 or Investigator George Cason at 706-839-0560.